Everything that goes into your body contributes (positively or negatively) to your inner strength. But some nutrients are absolutely crucial—without them, both strength and beauty will recede. Here are my top four:
Unless you carry an X-ray machine around with you, the appearance of your bones might not seem very important to your looks. But any actress will tell you that good posture is the most basic ingredient of beauty. As we age, our posture tends to change — our head moves forward over the chest and our back curves to compensate. Bad habits play a big role in this process, but so does the decrease in bone density that happens over the years. Calcium supplements can help slow down this process.
But that’s not the only thing calcium does; as we get older, we also lose calcium in our teeth, which can lead to tooth loss and decay. Supplementing your calcium intake has been shown to help keep your pearly whites in tip-top shape (1).
Bottom line: To keep you reaching for the stars with a winning smile—rather than reaching for your cane or your dentures—calcium is a must-have.
Iron is usually associated with blood, where it is crucial for transporting oxygen in red blood cells. Oxygen keeps our muscles firing, our minds clear and all our organs in optimal condition. It also plays a role in maintaining healthy weight.
Research shows that people who are overweight are more likely to be deficient in iron—perhaps in part because without enough of it, we lack energy for daily activities, and in part because overweight bodies don’t process iron as efficiently (2), contributing to a vicious cycle that makes it harder to successfully shed unwanted pounds. Boosting your iron intake can help.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is almost as important for healthy bones and teeth as calcium, because without vitamin D, the calcium we ingest can’t actually be used in the places it’s needed. But vitamin D also has a more direct role in keeping us looking our natural best. Called the “sunshine vitamin” because it is produced naturally in the skin with the help of UV light, it’s perhaps unsurprising that vitamin D is so important to our skin. It is directly involved in the renewal/regeneration of skin cells. Without it, skin cells that are lost to normal wear and tear aren’t replaced, and skin becomes thinner, drier, begins to sag and is more susceptible to injury. Vitamin D also promotes hair growth, and ridges on the fingernails are a sign of vitamin D deficiency.
For healthy skin, hair and nails, Vitamin D is a must.
Strength is not just being able to throw a punch but to take one, repeatedly, without getting hurt.
Our bodies, especially our skin, are designed to be resilient, and antioxidants do the heavy lifting in maintaining this resilience. There are many different kinds of antioxidants, but they all have one thing in common: they neutralize potentially destructive molecules called “free radicals.”
You’ve probably heard this before — free radicals are a major culprit of the aging process, throughout the body—the skin, of course, gets a lot of attention thanks to anti-aging cosmetic treatments, but in the brain, free radicals are linked to age-related diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s (3). Youthful skin may be more appealing to the eyes, but a sharp brain is priceless.
Free radicals are also really common: they’re found in our diet, environment, or as natural byproducts generated in the body. While we can try to limit our exposure, by wearing sunscreen, choosing healthy cosmetics, and quitting smoking, it also helps to have a standing army of antioxidants in supply. Some of the most important antioxidants to help prevent premature aging of the skin, brain and everything in between are vitamin E, green tea extract, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), coenzyme Q10 and selenium. Vitamin C is such a powerhouse that it will take a whole post (coming soon) to begin to do it justice.
- Nutrition. 2012 Jul;28(7-8):779-84
- Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2010 Oct;80(4-5):263-70.
- Mol Neurobiol. 2013 Oct;48(2):353-62.
About the Author
Emilie Croisier is a writer and editor based in Austin, TX. She has a PhD in Neuroscience from Imperial College London, and bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, with a minor in Brain and Cognitive Science, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When she’s not counting cars at the intersection of science and natural health, you can find her in her garden or at emilieilime.com.